While stakeholder engagement is not new, it is now accepted as integral to an organisation’s sustainability and success. It is important, therefore, to understand the difference between good-quality and poor-quality engagement.
That is the purpose of the AA1000 Stakeholder Engagement Standard (SES) to establish the benchmark for good-quality engagement.
About stakeholder engagement
Stakeholder engagement is the process used by an organisation to engage relevant stakeholders for a clear purpose to achieve agreed outcomes. It is now also recognised as a fundamental accountability mechanism, since it obliges an organisation to involve stakeholders in identifying, understanding and responding to sustainability issues and concerns, and to report, explain and answer to stakeholders for decisions, actions and performance.
What is the AA1000SES for?
The AA1000SES is a generally applicable framework for the assessment, design, implementation and communication of quality stakeholder engagement. It describes:
- how to establish commitment to stakeholder engagement
- how to determine the purpose, scope and stakeholders of the engagement
- how to integrate stakeholder engagement with governance, strategy and operations
- the processes that will deliver quality and inclusive engagement practice, and valuable outcomes.
What is a quality stakeholder engagement process?
Successful engagement depends on understanding why an organisation is engaging (the purpose), what issues to engage on (the scope), and who needs to be involved in the engagement (ownership, mandate, and stakeholders). Then the AA1000SES recommends a stakeholder engagement process including four stages:
1. Plan your engagement:
- Profile and map your stakeholders.
- Determine the levels and methods of engaging with stakeholders that are best suited to the purpose and scope of engagement and to the relevant stakeholders.
- Establish the boundaries of disclosure of your engagement and clearly communicate these boundaries to your stakeholders.
- Develop an engagement plan and made it available to your stakeholders to provide any input into the plan.
- Establish indicators that measure the impacts of your engagement.
2. Prepare your engagement:
- Identify and gain approval for the resources required for a successful engagement.
- Identify where the capacity to engage needs to be built and work with the stakeholders to respond appropriately to these needs in order to enable an effective engagement.
- Identify, assess and address engagement risks by establishing a robust framework for risk assessment that is coherent with the risk management approach of the organisation.
3. Implement your engagement plan:
- Ensure that stakeholders are invited to participate reasonably well in advance and that communications are appropriate for each stakeholder.
- Develop and provide the participants with the briefing materials needed to ensure the success of the engagement.
- Establish procedural and behavioural ground rules for the participants in the engagement, agreed by all participants.
- Document the engagement and its outputs.
- Analyse the engagement and its outputs and develop an action plan that articulates how the organisation will respond to the outputs of the engagement.
- Communicate the outputs and action plan to participants of the engagement in an appropriate and timely manner.
4. Review and improve your engagement:
- Systematically monitor and evaluate the overall quality of your stakeholder engagement, and evaluate the quality of individual engagements.
- Strive to continually improve your stakeholder engagement by identifying and acting on specific improvements.
- Develop an action plan, ensuring organisational collaboration, following the engagement process.
- Publicly report on your stakeholder engagement.
How to apply the AA1000SES?
The AA1000SES has not been designed to replace or undermine existing frameworks, such as government consultation requirements or formal collective bargaining arrangements between organisations and workers. It may, however, usefully inform and support these engagements.
One of the best way to apply the AA1000SES into your organization is to implement a Stakeholder Engagement Management system. IsoMetrix offers integrated management solutions to combine the different stakeholder engagement processes in a dynamic, flexible and systematic way.
Find out how IsoMetrix helps organisations drive compliance with international management system standards and guidelines such as AA1000SES.
Click here to download IsoMetrix alignment with AA1000SES
As a freely available standard recognised by leaders in the field, organisations regardless of size can benefit from using the AA1000SES. The adoption of this standard can be a source of competitive advantage for those organisations that can effectively create value and improve overall performance – collaboratively.
About the Author
Benoit Froment is Director North America for Metrix Software Solutions. He is responsible for leading the IsoMetrix operations in the US and Canada, including Sales and Marketing, Implementation and Customer Support. He is also an IsoMetrix Subject Matter Expert in Social Sustainability.